In this episode, Zach and Ade discuss the role of education and building wealth with Accenture senior strategy consultant, Richard Odior.
Hosts: Ade | Zach
Ade: “Research and public policy have traditionally focused on education and income as drivers of upward mobility. There is compelling evidence, however, that education alone does little to explain the source of different levels of economic well-being, especially across race. Observing an association between higher levels of educational attainment and higher levels of net wealth and concluding that education produces wealth is tantamount to observing an association between the presence of umbrellas during rainfalls and concluding that umbrellas cause the rain. It's more likely that the relative wealth of different races explains the educational attainment differences across race groups.” This excerpt is from “Umbrellas Don’t Make it Rain: Why Studying and Working Hard Isn’t Enough for Black Americans” a joint report between The New School, Duke Center for Social Equality, and Insight, a non-profit research entity. What does this mean for people of color trying to secure the bag? What role, if any, does education play in affecting our income? And if education alone won’t secure the bag, what will? Hi, my name is Ade. And this is Living Corporate.
Ade: So today, we’re talking about greenery. Cheese. To be more specific, we're talking about paper, stacks, racks, looseleaf, guap, benjamins, all that.
Zach: So we're talking about money?
Ade: Mhmm, getting to the bag. More specifically and more to the point of this show, what role, if any, does education plays a role in securing said bag.
Zach: You know, this is a great topic, I'm really excited that we're talking about it. Because I know for me growing up, education was a big deal. It was a big deal for its own sake because my mom is a principal now and before that, she was an English teacher. Butt off top she told me, look, the expectation is for you to get a Masters. We didn’t even talk about me going to college because we knew that we were going to college, no joke. I didn’t even walk for my undergrad degree. Not because I don’t believe college matters, but because it was so much the expectation.
Ade: Same here - it wasn’t even a spoken thing, my family just expected me to go to college. You need to go to college to get a job and you need a job to get money so it was an automatic thought process there.
Zach: Right, and to be honest I just figured the more education you got, the more money you’d make. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that isn’t always the case.
Ade: Well, to keep it real for a second, how many people do we know who, at the barest minimum, have a bachelor's degree, but have not secured the bag?
And before we go any further, this is certainly not to disparage anybody with a bachelor's degree under their belt, or who have terminal degrees. This is just a process of trying to understand what the secret sauce is. Listen, if there's a formula, somebody needs to put me on. I was on Fishbowl, which is, for those who don't know, it's an anonymous posting app for consultants and there were just so many different stories and conversations going on around compensation that I've never been exposed to before. And it’s even more unbelievable because that study I referenced at the top of the show, again it's called “Umbrellas Don’t Make it Rain: Why Studying and Working Hard Isn’t Enough for Black Americans”, it calls out median wealth by education level, and it shows a disparity between black and white families- where Black families with a post baccalaureate have a combined wealth of 84k white families at the same level have a combined wealth of almost 300k. The numbers get even more bleak with fewer years of education.
Zach: Right, and I appreciate you sharing this data. It's a great report "Umbrellas don't make it rain", we'll make sure to have it in the actual show description but I look at those numbers myself like “HOW SWAY? HOW!!” How is that possible?! The thing about it is, though, neither one of us has finished grad school, so most of our talking points are gonna be second hand, right? It would be great if we could talk to a 1st generation Corporate professional who, maybe they graduated from a top 3 grad school in the nation. You know, someone who could share their story about their experiences
Ade: Right, right
Zach: What the job hunting was like and maybe how they used their degree to get to the next level, perhaps?
Ade: Like our guest, Richard Odior?
Ade + Zach : whaaaaaaa?
Zach: Sound man - I need you to go ahead and drop them thangs in here for me!
Ade: [Laughs] alright, so next, we’re going to get into our interview with our guest Richard Odior. I hope you guys enjoy
Zach: Hey y’all, we’re back! Annnnd as Ade said, we have Richard Odior on the show! Richard, welcome to Living Corporate man!
Richard: Thanks for having me, guys, I'm glad to come to the show, I guess. This is exciting, man.
Zach: So, for those of us who don’t know you, would you mind sharing your story a bit? Specifically of how you (1) got into Corp America and (2) what led you to pursue an MBA?
Richard: Yeah, so I went to the University of Houston and majored in Finance, and like anybody else in Houston, there's one option - oil and gas. So I quickly hopped into a career in finance in oil and gas for a couple of years, worked in commodity trading, then like financial performance analysis, pretty much all the board for a while. And then luckily I was able to gather with a group of friends who were trying to do some entrepreneurial things, and we opened up a chain of gourmet donut cafes in Houston. Shout out to Glazed. And so one of the things that the experience let me know is that I loved building things. I love growing things. But it also let me know I liked growing things fast. And what I learned about through that experience is that brick and mortar is a bit slower and so I went back to school in a sense to move back to a faster paced growth, and so for me that was tech, right? Tech enabled businesses. So, I went back to business school with two things in mind- either going to Venture Capital, or going to Consulting. Because I wanted to see a faster paced growth, that's kind of how my mission to go back to school started.
Zach: So talk to me a bit more about growing things and growing things fast. When did you realize that the pace that you worked at was perhaps a little bit faster than that of your surroundings?
Richard: Oh man, it was as soon as week three of work. I think at the time, oil and gas was moving slow, companies were paying people crazy amounts of dollars to do little work, and so I joined my new group, and I was probably the only other person under 30 in my group of like thirty five people. And primarily because companies were paying people to do work that could have been automated and people were not motivated to move up because they were getting annual promotions, annual raises, and it was outlandish. And I just realized this was very slow. In the first 6 month of being there, I had already surpassed a lot of people of the floor because everybody was coasting, and it wasn’t because I was doing anything amazing, I was just putting in more effort than the average individual, right?
Zach: Right, right.
Richard: And for me, that just kinda wasn't what I wanted to do. I figured 'while you're young, do as much as you can as fast as you can, and learn as much as you can.' So I just kept on pushing and pushing and pushing, and through the experiences I was able, and great mentors at the company, I was able to build really fast, get into new roles, get new opportunities that a lot of people probably wouldn't get into until several years into their career. And so that was pretty amazing, but then I realized I didn’t have ownership of anything. I didn't have anything that I could call my staple item. When you're working in oil and gas, you don't own an oil rig, you don't build an oil rig, you don't make any of that, so I was like 'what is my impact?' and I didn't feel it. And I felt like there was a way to feel it, that I wanted to tangibly know that I had changed something. So, I looked at somewhere else. And luckily I had some friends who were into the same thing, into building, into cultivating, into doing some really cool things. And we just started chatting and we said 'hey, what can we do?'
Zach: Were there any preconceived notions about grad school that were proven right when you got there? And were there any preconceived notions about grad school that were proven wrong?
Richard: One preconceived notion, at least for business school, and I'll speak to business school, the hardest part was getting in. Once you're in, it's busy, it's difficult, it's kind of like a ride. You're growing yourself and learning and meeting new people all the time, and sometimes a lot of the work gets masked, if that makes sense. You don't realize how much work you're doing because it's masked in so many other experiences. The opportunities really feel global. Like, I traveled almost thirty countries in two years, it was ridiculous.
Zach: thirty countries in two years?
Richard: Yeah I think the final number was like twenty-eight. And I can speak for myself, I don't want to speak for all minorities, but it's just one of the things that a friend of mine told me - speak up, raise your hand, and don't be afraid. Minorities tend to feel like our voice is not going to be on par with the rest of everybody. We think about what we're going to say so carefully because we want to seem a certain way, and what I realized, and what my buddy told me, he was like 'you're here because you earned it. Don't ever feel like you didn't earn it, and don't ever feel like you can't compete.' Those were really really big words for me because I think often times I went to a public school, I went to the University of Houston, right? And a lot of b school classes have students coming out of Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and so sometimes you get this mindset like 'yoo what am I going to do, I'm not on the same level.' And then you get in there and you pull something out of yourself that you don't understand that you have. And you understand that you're here because you're valuable, you're here because you bring something to the table, and I think that was one of the things that I had to shake off when I first got there.
Zach: It's funny that you bring that up, talking about 'you look around the room and you see all these people that got really big collegiate names next to them' and how you question yourself like 'do you really belong there.' it's funny because a couple shows ago we had- we were talking about imposter syndrome and how you battle that. And it's funny that you kind of bring that up when you say 'not feeling like you should have to prove your seat at the table.' But that if you're here, you earned it, and you're here for a reason.
I hope that people take that away and that they're encouraged by it. That's a really good message. And I think it's actually applicable in and outside of Academia, right?
Richard: I always tell people like 'Let someone else turn you away,' right?
Zach: Straight up, yeah
Richard: The amount of times we (and I talk about we as the minority population), We self-doubt ourselves, right? We say oh-- I remember in undergrad, there was a career fair and there were several companies recruiting. And my buddies, we walked in and they veered off left and I veered off to the right and I was like 'yo guys, why don't you come in here?' and they were like 'well my GPA's not this and my grades aren't that' and I said 'let them tell you no'. I'm not going to tell myself no, you know? Someone needs to pat me on the back and say 'Hey Richard, what you're doing is not good enough', 'Hey Richard, your product is not good enough', 'Hey Richard, your grades aren't good enough', because I'm not going to tell myself I'm not good enough.
Zach: Man, amen
Richard: I'm going to walk in there, I'm going to hand in my resume to whoever's there, and we're going to have this conversation, and then you're gonna tell me I'm not good enough.
Zach: No, straight up, I'm cheering you on when you're talking because man, that's my philosophy. Like, look man, there's plenty of people out there who will tell me I'm not whatever. I'm either too academic or not academic enough, I'm either too strategic or too tactical, or I'm too this or not enough that. Listen, man. There's enough out there already of all of that. So I'm not gonna be an additional voice for that, I'm going to tell myself I am enough
Richard: You are enough, yeah!
Zach: You know, like what's the point? So you gonna sit back and join every other voice that's out there? Not to be super pessimistic and say that the world's against you, that's not what I'm saying. But there's more than enough voices and perspectives and opinions, be that for whatever reason, that are gonna discount you, so don't discount yourself! Let them tell you, Let them push you out the room, let them tell you that you shouldn't sit at the table. Then you fight, but don't kick yourself before you even get started.
Richard: 100% you gotta walk in like you already have a seat at the table every time you walk in the room.
Richard: Every time. Every time you walk in the room. Now, I'm gonna let you pull my chair out, but I'm not pulling my own chair out of underneath myself.
Zach: I'm saying! [Laughs]
Richard: I have a seat!
Zach: That's right
Richard: I don't care what room it is. I walk in, I have a seat. That's how you have to operate.
Zach: No absolutely. Well look, man, today as you know, we're talking about getting to the bag, right? And so the context was all around, like, we looked at a study called Umbrellas Don't Make It Rain and it's essentially dispelling certain myths about wealth inequality and income inequality. And one of the things for me and Ade that we were talking about on the show, growing up, I just thought that if you got a grad degree, that they were just going to hand you money, right? That you're just gonna walk out of that thing with a thick six-figure salary, and so my question to you - what would you say to people who just make that assumption? Like look, I went to grad school, I got my MBA, and now it's time for me to get that 160,000, 180,000, 220,000 dollar bag. Like, what would you say to people who make that assumption?
Richard: Whew, uh, I think a couple things to get the bag, you gotta be ready, first what are you bringing to the table? What industry are you looking to go into? What were you doing before? And how are you going to change the organization that you're going to now? So, for example, even me going to business school was interesting. I remember when I was making the decision, I was basically a finance guy, so I had to put it in a spreadsheet, right? And so, I had to say 'okay, if I go to business school and pay X and come out and get paid this, then it's valuable.' And I hate to sound like a snob, in a sense, but I think a lot of times people don't understand what they're investing in when they go to grad school. And I say this to say - not to knock any program - all programs are not created equal, all opportunities are not created equal, so going to any grad school is not the same as going to certain grad schools, if that makes sense
Richard: And it all depends on where you are in life, right? At a certain point, I usually say it's a premium spot is maybe 4 to 6, anywhere from 4 to 6 years is a premium spot because you've probably made good enough money at the place you're in, but still have enough value from the MBA to get the post-MBA salary and still be worth it. Let me give an example - if you work 8 years and you've made your salary is now at X dollars, it's harder to leverage the MBA because the jump that you can make is smaller, right? But if you go at prime time, which is usually, for most people about 4-6 years, a jump is still very sizeable. So for example, I was blessed with a really good job before, like I said, it was great, I was making really good money. But post MBA, I was still able to increase my overall salary by more than 50%. At that point, the numbers still made sense. But if I had stayed in my current company for maybe another year or two, the jump would not have been as large.
Richard: Also, I think some of the big things - it's not just about the bag now, it's about the bag later. And I say that in the sense that if you go to the right program with the right resources and the right network, the beauty of it is, it's not just about you getting the bag today, but your network will also be getting the bag. And so your network is your bag as well. Because whenever they're looking to hire a consultant down the line? It's you. Whenever they're looking to hire someone for an acquisition? It's you. They're gonna operate in the network of other people that they believe are competent. One of the things I noticed - I work in consulting- one of the things I noticed was some of the best managing directors, what they leverage is their MBA network. What they utilize is their other classmates working in industry, at whatever company it may be, and they reach out to them and they sell these huge million dollar projects back and forth. And because that bag is not just a today bag, it's a future bag, right? And so I won't say that knowledge isn't something that you can always google. There's a lot of aspects you can Google about the knowledge you can get, the documentation, but a large part of business school is the in-person interaction. I used to sit with my classmates from Colombia, India, Indonesia, all over the world, and we would talk about different concepts and I'd learn directly from them. And two things that I got - I got unique knowledge, but I also got to know them better. So, when I tell you I went to 28 countries, I was going with these people from those countries and I was learning business through them and with them and now in the future, they know that if an opportunity comes, I can knock on their door, they can knock on mine.
Zach: When we talk about wealth or the bag, I know for me that my default is "how much money am I going to make off of this job?' Individually, me, right now. As opposed to, to your point, pulling from your network, right? And thinking about, you said, the bag in the future. I would say even if your bag is only, you know, in the context of a yearly salary, your bag isn't big enough, right? Like I would say you need to be thinking about really what encompasses the bag. And to your point, it's that network. When you think about MDs and Partners and Principals, especially cats who have been selling work for 5, 10, 15 years, they typically are selling work back and forth to like the same what like 7 or 8 people?
Richard: 7 or 8 people!
Zach: Like it's not like they're like 'oh I found this brand new guy that just popped out of nowhere' No, they have a network there.
Richard: That's part of the bag. The relationships are part of the bag because ideally, one of the things I realized, and if you go to the right program, if you do it the right way, you don't have to get to the bag immediately. And I've seen it multiple times where someone went to grad school, they might have not gotten the exact job they wanted, but they take another job, they did well, they got promoted, then two jobs down the line, when a great opportunity comes with that company, well their friend works at that company and is high in that company, and they pull them over. You see a gravitation of 'oh that company's run by a bunch of X people that go to that school, that company is run by a lot of people that go to that program.' It's because there's a relationship that's being built, that's being carried over in so many ways. There's a reason why certain companies recruit at certain schools, because those relationships, someone high in that company is from that school and has that relationship, so there's definitely value. And if you're changing industries, there's definitely a value there. And that was one of the factors that if you're putting it into a spreadsheet, you won't be able to put that part in the spreadsheet. Your bag might not be actual cash, it might be your happiness and your enjoyment of getting into something you wanna do. I have a lot of friends from school who might have been doing things like banking, investment banking previously, making north of 200 [thousand] a year, and took jobs that make maybe half of that post because their ideal goal was to get to something that was different, and that was the bag for them. And so identifying what your bag is is a big thing. If you identify what your bag is, then you can identify how to get to the bag
Zach: That's a really good point, man. I like that a lot. So to your point, I think perspective matters. What you're thinking about what your goals are. Which actually is a good segue to my next question, so as a follow up to that, what was your strategy for you on leveraging an MBA for where you want to go? So when you think about - man did you even plug the school? Did you plug the school that you went to?
Richard: Oh I gotta plug my school, I was waiting for the end, but I went to Kellogg, man. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, man. That's my home, man. They took care of me for a good two years, man.
Zach: There we go. So my question is when you think about Kellogg and the degree that you earned, what was your strategy on leveraging your MBA for where you wanted to go? Like how did it fit into your master plan?
Richard: I'm still leveraging it now. I mean, in multiple ways. I think for me, the school, ideally chose the school for one a few reasons, right? One was the programs that had the learning that I like to learn. It had a lot of hands-on learning, but mixed with class work. And they promised that you would work in over 400 groups before you left. And I was like wow, 400? I was like alright. And the importance of that was that I work best when I get to know people. Like I'm not the best, but I've always been good at managing relationships and I wanted to go to a school where I'd get to interact with people, manage and harvest relationships, and be able to develop with these people. So when I chose the school, that was definitely in mind, and then on top of that, since I've been in school, the network is amazing. I've been able to reach out to so many people and I've made mentors and connections through our network that have been beyond anything I could have dreamed about. And I'm still making networks and connections, I'm still making calls, and I'm still giving back in the same way. And so I'm always in this realm of gratefulness to the program, but it's leveraged me to be able to have conversations with individuals who probably would never, if I had just tried to make a certain transition, would answer my call. In my phone, to this day, I have the numbers saved of at least 5 millionaires. Easily. And that's a minimum. And those came through the experience of when I got to Kellogg, connecting with certain people, being continuously connected to my goals. For me, I had several short term and long term goals. I was able to utilize my network very early on. I remember the first week of school, we did an exercise, and it was in your sections, sections were usually around 60 people, and so our professor said I want you to tell me something that is one of your largest goals and I want you to put it on the board. And we're one by one putting it on the board. And anybody who could help you get to your goal would come write their name on your sheet.
Zach: oh wow, that's powerful.
Richard: and it was interesting because he said 'you don't realize what you have alone in this room. Not even the whole school, but what you have alone in this room.' And from that first week of school alone, from the people who wrote their name on my list, I've been able to go so far. It's been crazy, I've met some of the millionaires I was said I connected to was through one exercise. And they leveraged me to introduce me to other people and it's been amazing and so, because of that, I naturally have been given experiences where I don't even have to leverage the MBA, the MBA gave to me directly, if that makes sense.
Zach: No it does, that makes a lot of sense, man. So look, I have a last question for you - do you have any other plugs, other shoutouts?
Richard: Whew, um, I got a lot of shout outs, a lot og plugs
Zach: Do your thing man, do your thing
Richard: I gotta do a Glazed Donut Café - if you’re in Houston, for sure, check this out. They're my family. Love you. Kellogg's School of Management, Bauer was my undergrad, go Coug's, I learned everything I know from them. I also wanna plug Impact America Fund. One of the firms I used to work at, and I got connected to them during business school. It's a double bottom line venture capital fund which focuses on investing in minority entrepreneurs and underrepresented minorities. I learned a lot from the people at that firm and I've grown a lot through them. I want to shout out to Living Corporate for doing what they're doing. You guys don't know how major this is right here. Honestly, as someone who has constantly worked in corporate america, this is something we used to talk about in business school is - we often have to cover and hover and hide who we are constantly, and what you guys are giving people is the opportunity to really be open, and also an opportunity to see that you're not alone in the workplace. Which is often times when you're the 'other,' you always feel alone. This podcast alone has excited me so much because it lets me know I'm not alone, and lets me hear the stories of people who are doing great things that are also considered an 'other' at work.
Zach: Aw man, that's amazing, well first of all Richard, bro thank you for the kind words. The thing about it is, what excites me is your energy is - and spoiler alert for those who don't know, Richard and I are friendly, and we've known each other for about a decade now-
Richard: yeah man, a decade!
Zach: But what's crazy, and what excites me is the fact that when you say something, especially when you give praise, and also when you constructive criticism, but when you speak all that energy, it comes from a really authentic place. And so, we wanna thank you for joining us today, and definitely all the shout outs- I want to endorse. Eat Glazed. Glazed is a great donut spot, good donuts, great flavors, if you're in Houston, check it out. You'll probably see us shout them out on our IG stories, so stay tuned for that, but anyway, Richard man, thank you for joining us today
Richard: Yeah, and any minorities who are listening and you're thinking about grad school or business school, I can speak specifically to business school, if you're thinking about business school, feel free to hit me up. Honestly, I'm an open book, I like talking, I'll have a conversation with you, anyone who needs anything honestly. My goal is to see more of us in those spaces, because honestly something I will say is it's a leveling ground. It evens out the field and I've seen it multiple times, for people who were not given a silver spoon to start off with. So if you want to have a conversation, if you just have questions in general, these guys have my contact info, feel free to reach out and we can chop it up
Zach: We'll definitely put the contact info in the podcast description. Drop your stuff, man, what's your twitter, your IG-
Richard: yeah so my email is email@example.com, my IG is r.odior. That's it, you can find me on facebook, find me on LinkedIn, feel free to touch base any time. Let me know that you came from Living Corporate first so I can show these guys some love.
Zach: [laughs] yeah man, that's what's up. Richard, again brother, thank you. We look forward to talking to you again soon, brother. Alright, Peace.
Ade: And we’re back. Yo, that was a great interview and Richard was a fun guest. He had some great insights on how you can leverage a degree for your goals, but I think I’m more certain now than I was before that that degree isn’t a cheat code.
Zach: Yeah, like I said from the beginning, I was raised to think that having a graduate degree would give me one two three four five six seven eight Ms in my bank account.
Ade: Right, but at the same time I do believe the degrees have their time and place. They just need to be part of your plan. Which is it’s own thing.
Zach: Real talk. I know for me I genuinely want to get a grad degree, right? First it was an MBA, but now I’m thinking an I/O Psych PHD but --
Ade: Oh, ok you fancy huh?
Zach: I am very fancy, for sure. The point is, I’m trying to think it through, like the why of the degree, because school isn't free. Definitely not even cheap
Ade: Sure isn't, sure is not. And, listen, we started off the show talking about wealth inequality and how it isn’t fixed purely by education. I don’t think this should discourage people from pursuing a degree. I do hope that this conversation helps us think critically and analyze fairly common assumptions many of us were raised to believe about how wealth is generated and distributed. Like Richard alluded to, we’re going to have to re-think what “the bag” is for us and what our strategy to secure it, it has to be more than an annual salary.
Zach: Right! That’s a soundbite for sure. This is a huge, complex, and yes, frustrating topic, but I believe the starting point is awareness, then thoughtful dialogue, then planning and then action.
Ade: Agreed! Anyway - let’s get into our next segment - my favorite things, where we talk about what our favorite things are these days.
Zach : Yes! My favorite thing right now has to be this book I’m reading called Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge. It’s so frank and honest. I also have a bias towards aggressive book titles. Book titles that let you know exactly what it's about when you pick it up. I just, I really enjoy that. Also, shout out to Glazed Donuts. Glazed Donuts is a gourmet donut restaurant based in Houston TX. I can tell you they have a great product - donuts, sandwiches, kalaches, juice, allat. Shout out to Richard, Bobby, Edose, TJ and all the members of the Glazed Donut team.
Ade: So currently, I have at the absolute top of my list of one true loves, I have this book called Children of Blood and Bone. It is by Tomi Adeyemi who wrote just an amazing, amazing work. And I'm looking forward to reading more from her. I'm Nigerian, I'm Yoruba, and it's really beautiful to see the Yoruba pantheon of gods incorporated into a literary work. So go check that out if you are interested at all in, well, reading. But also if you're interested at all in any fantasy novels, really really good book. My other favorite thing- I don't know if you've seen I just got a new dog. His name is Benji. Well, technically his name is Maximillian Benjamin Gold the third. There is no first or second, but yeah. We are extra over here around these parts. I call him Benji because I'm the more sane mama. I'm well grounded and down to earth and all of those things. So my beautiful beautiful baby husky is just my newest ray of sunlight and I just, I cannot get enough of him. I've taken 262 pictures and I've posted maybe 3 of them, so like I'm not being obsessive and I'm not being 'that guy' but. He's a gorgeous pup, and I do say so myself.
Zach: Dope! Well, thank you for joining us on the Living Corporate Podcast. Make sure to follow us on instagram at @livingcorporate, twitter at @LivingCorp_Pod and subscribe to our newsletter through www.living-corporate.com. If you have a question you’d like us to answer and read on the show, make sure you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Aaaaaand that does it for us on this show. This is has been Zach.
Ade: and I’m Ade
Both : peace!
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